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Silver Spring Transit Center Lawsuit in Montgomery County Circuit Court

Nearly five years late and with about $50 million in cost overruns, the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit Center opened in Silver Spring, Md., a Washington, D.C. suburb, on Sept. 20.

The legal battle among project participants was already underway.

Operation of the three-level regional rail, bus and taxi hub “was off to a good start,” said one local media report on Sept. 21. But it follows by one month a negligence lawsuit filed by project owners Washington Metro and Montgomery County against its designer Parsons Brinckerhoff, builder Foulger-Pratt Contracting LLC and an inspection firm.

The Aug. 24 lawsuit in county circuit court seeks $166 million in damages. Construction of the 259,000-sq-ft, cast-in-place structure had been plagued by evidence of surface cracking and spalling of concrete.

In their 25-count complaint, plaintiffs are alleging defects in the PB design and in its project oversight, as well as defects in the contractor's construction and the failure of inspection firm The Robert B. Balter Co., to detect the alleged flaws.

While the lawsuit acknowledges that PB addressed some flaws identified by independent engineers retained to review the project in 2013, it contends that the firm "refused to help correct the critical design defects related to the impact of shear and torsion foces on the elevated levels of the facility."

The lawsuit says that Washington-based engineer KCE was retained "to design a remedy for the defects and to oversee [Foulger Pratt's] work in correcting them."

A PB spokeswoman declined to comment on the lawsuit specifics, but says in a statement that the firm "stands behind our work and will vigorously defend our position." In comments to The Washington Post on Sept. 19, the firm said that the design has been used in other U.S. projects.

In a statement, Judah Lifschitz, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney for Foulger-Pratt pointed to problems on the project "that are of the county's own making," including "gross mismanagement. The County failed at every turn to properly manage the project and, in particular, mitigate the impact of its design defects."

Lifschitz said the contractor "will vigorously defend this case. Far from Foulger-Pratt owing the County or WMATA money, Foulger-Pratt and its subcontractors are owed millions of dollars.